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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Friday, August 5, 2005

Blonde Phantom 14

I'm still loving the crime-fighting chick in the evening gown. Here's the cover or BLONDE PHANTOM COMICS #14 [Summer, 1947] by Syd Shores. That's the only credit I could find for this issue, but I did get a list of characters/story titles from Greg Gatlin's spiffy ATLAS TALES website [] and from the GRAND COMICS DATABASE []:

Blonde Phantom in "Horror at Haunted Castle" (8 pages);

Miss America in "Death Drops the Curtain" (5 pages);

Blonde Phantom in "Autograph Hunters" (2 pages);

Sub-Mariner and Namora in "The Brain Strikes Back" (4 pages); and,

Blonde Phantom in "Tons of Terror" (10 pages).

The OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE figures a near-mint copy of this issue will sell for $1175. There are two copies of this issue currently available on eBay.

Heritage Galleries just listed a "very fine" (8.0) copy a few days ago. Its opening bid is $1, but they expect it to sell in the range of $800-$1200. They listed copies of BLONDE PHANTOM #12 and #13 as well, which, like this one, will be auctioned live on August 13, in Dallas, Texas.

If you don't want to wait that long or don't want to take the chance of being outbid, a lesser condition copy (graded 5.0) of the issue is currently available on eBay with a "Buy It Now" price of just $271. If only I had a rich girlfriend, my beloved wife being far too sensible to spend that much on a comic book.

The Blonde Phantom will doubtless return to TOT in the future, but, for now, let's do some reviews.



Capote in Kansas

CAPOTE IN KANSAS [Oni Press; $11.95] takes its inspiration from IN COLD BLOOD, Truman Capote's classic "non-fiction novel" as writer Ande Parks relates a "fictionalized account" of Capote's research into the 1959 murders of Clutter family in Kansas. Parks and Chris Samnee - whose work recalls George Tuska's brilliant CRIME DOES NOT PAY art - show us Capote's initial, unfortunately doltish attempts to interview the townspeople about their slain neighbors. We see him find a way to connect with the victims, those who mourn them, and even their killers, a journey that takes him to Death Row and a sort of closure to the story he is driven to tell. Save room on next year's nominating ballots for CAPOTE IN KANSAS; it's clearly one of the best graphic novels of the year. On our usual scale of zero to five, it earns the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

CAPOTE IN KANSAS: 132 pages, black-and-white


Courtney Crumrin in Tales 1

Ted Naifeh's COURTNEY CRUMRIN TALES: PORTRAIT OF THE WARLOCK AS A YOUNG MAN [Oni Press; $5.95] is the first of a series of one-shots featuring characters from the Crumrin comic books. This time out, the spotlight shines on Uncle Aloysius in his earlier years. He infiltrates the unfortunately-initialed Anti-Sorcery Society on the track of a rogue sorcerer drawing dangerous attention to things of which humanity in general would best be left unaware. The tale is well-told and well-drawn, not memorable but entertaining. Let's give it a perfectly respectable three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

COURTNEY CRUMRIN TALES: 60 pages, black-and-white.


Dreamland Chronicles 1

In THE DREAMLAND CHRONICLES #1-3 [Astonish/Alias; $3.50 each], Scott Christian Sava introduces us to Alex Carter, who, as a boy, was apparently able to enter another world through his dreams and who now, as a college student, has just rediscovered his ability to enter it. The downside is that as soon as he hits the R.E.M. sleep which allows him to visit this dreamland, he also goes clinically brain dead. Not to mention the other life-threatening perils which now await him in what was once a place of childhood adventures and comfort. That would keep me up nights.

Sava is the creator, writer, and illustrator of THE DREAMLAND CHRONICLES though he's assisted by various designers and modelers. The series looks like a two-dimensional counterpart of movies like SHREK. It's an appealingly bright-and-sunny look though it often draws too much attention to itself.

Alex's dreamland friends are fun: Nastajia the elf girl turned defender of her people, Kiwi the fairy who has grown up in a most delightful and sexy way, and rock-boy Paddington Rumblebottom, who is now a giant rock man. I like these characters, though I'm not as enamored of their fantasy world. That's a personal thing; I'm just not big on fantasy.

More interesting to me are Alex's relationship with his twin brother Daniel, who truly believes in Dreamland...and the conflict between Daniel and scientist Nicole. Daniel is all about faith and Nicole all about science. Crossing my fingers, I'm hoping Sava is *not* setting up a faith-over-science scenario. I already get too much of that from the religious right zealots who can't conceive of a Creator who works through science and has given us the intellect to explore the world around and within us via scientific methods. But I digress and perhaps unfairly so.

THE DREAMLAND CHRONICLES offers Sava's readers excellent bang for their bucks. Your mileage may vary, but this reviewer gives it three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

THE DREAMLAND CHRONICLES #1-3: 60 pages each, color.


Ultimate Spider-Man 75

I like to read ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley in chunks, usually in hardcover format. However, this time, with finances tight due to our house repairs and renovations, I borrowed issues #60-78 [Marvel; $2.25/$2.50 each] from a friend. Thanks, buddy!

This run of issues started out with two of the weakest stories in the title's history. "Carnage" seemed to have but one point: to kill off a supporting character. Yes, it set up events that played out later in the run, but said events didn't change my distaste for "Carnage," right down to the predictable scene where Curt Connors' lab assistant makes off with some of Spider-Man's blood. That was the equivalent of the old-time monster movies which used to end on a scene reading...THE END? The only thing I liked about "Carnage" was how Connors took responsibility for his actions, regardless of the consequences to himself.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #60-65: two Tonys.

Tony Tony

Then we get two issues in which Spider-Man and Wolverine have switched bodies...because Wolvie hit on Jean Grey and she decided to punish him by putting him Peter's body, which, apparently, was the worst thing her fellow mutant could imagine. If you think this sounds dumb, you're right on the money. Don't even get me started on what kind of arrogant and irresponsible monster does this to an innocent teenager like Peter Parker.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #66-67: one Tony.


Things picked up with the meeting of Spider-Man and the Human Torch in #68 and #69. Bendis and Bagley made great use of Marvel's Ultimate Universe. Johnny Storm came off as real as Peter Parker and the two played off well against one another. It was a terrific start to what I hope will be a long friendship.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #68-69: five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Spider-Man once again met the Ultimate Universe version of Dr. Strange in issues #70-71. It wasn't a great story, but it was well above average with a truly heartrending ending involving the Peter-Mary Jane relationship.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #70-71: four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Things remained up to speed with the return of Harry Osborn, son of the Green Goblin, in issues #72-77. The drama was high from start to finish. There was excellent use of the Ultimate Universe, especially its darker corners. There were further consequences for Peter's personal life. These were the kind of comics that make me want to see what happens next.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #72-77: five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Mary Jane gets "Dumped" in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #78, a single issue story that focuses on the Parker/Watson relationship. Bendis and Bagley don't leave readers with any doubt as to what a terrific young woman she is and how much she loves Peter. They also give us what might be foreshadowing or maybe a clever red herring about a new foe for Spider-Man. Stories like this, the Hobgoblin serial, and the Human Torch issues are why ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is usually my favorite of Marvel's many Spider-Man titles.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #78: five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #60-78: 36 pages, color.

Look for more "lightning round reviews" next week.



There's no overriding theme to today's COMICS IN THE COMICS, just some random strips and panels that caught my eye as I looked at newspapers and surfed the Internet.

Pearls Before Swines

Stephen Pastis is an attorney-turned-cartoonist with a degree in political science. His PEARLS BEFORE SWINE strip from July 1 is a great example of a strip making use of another strip's characters to get the laugh.

Sally Forth

Father Ted is coaching daughter Hilary's softball team in the SALLY FORTH strip for July 5. Mom and title heroine Sally is the assistant coach. The strip is written by Francesco Marciuliano and drawn by Craig Macintosh.


FOX TROT for July 3 spoofed a popular feature usually found on the comics page. As is my wont, I filled it out in pen. Thinking back, I probably should have printed it out before I did that and saved myself the expense of a new monitor.

If you were stumped by the puzzle, you can find the answers at FOX TROT creator and cartoonist Bill Amend's website. Just head over to:

Look for more COMICS IN THE COMICS in future TOTs.



Have you voted in this week's TONY POLLS yet? This week, we are asking you to choose your favorite comic book from Diamond's Top 19 list...and also how you buy the majority of your new comic books, which format accounts for most of your new comics spending, and if you spend more money on new comics or old comics. You can cast your votes at:

I'll have the results of the previous TONY POLLS questions for you in next Monday's TOT with a new batch of questions coming your way on Tuesday.



World Famous Comics web-wizard JUSTIN will be at WIZARD WORLD CHICAGO, which starts today and runs through Sunday. If you should see him there, don't be shy about saying "hi" and telling him how much you appreciate all his hard work.

Alas, I will not be attending WIZARD WORLD CHICAGO or any of the other summer shows. this November's MID-OHIO-CON, I'll be launching the 2006 TONY ISABELLA "DID YOU MISS ME?" TOUR. The aim is for me to go to a dozen comics conventions between and including MID-OHIO-CON 2005 and 2006. I'll start announcing other appearances in the near future.

If you're a convention promoter, feel free to contact me about appearing at your show. If you're a TOT reader who would like to see me at your favorite show, get in touch with the promoter of the show and let him or her know that. I'm open to considering any and all suggestions and invitations.

You can contact me at:

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. Have a great weekend and I'll be back Tuesday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 08/04/2005 | 08/05/2005 | 08/09/2005 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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